What is the difference between self-esteem and self-compassion?

Ronald Siegel
People sometimes confuse self-esteem with self-compassion. The two are quite different. Self-esteem requires you to compare yourself to others: to feel that you're "better" than other people in some way. On the other hand, self-compassion requires no comparison to others, but rather involves being warm and understanding toward yourself even at times of failure . So self-compassion is available whether you are feeling up or down. In fact, it is often stronger when things are not going your way. Self-esteem, instead, tends to plummet when things go badly.

Self-esteem vs. self-compassion:

  • Based on self-evaluation
  • Based on comparison with others
  • Based on feeling special, different, or above average
  • Associated with a lack of tolerance for alternate viewpoints
  • Fluctuates depending on whether you feel up or down
  • Based on feeling warm and accepting of oneself
  • Not based on comparison with others
  • Not based on feeling different from others
  • Emphasizes interconnection rather than an egocentric defensiveness
  • Exists consistently whether you feel up or down

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